|Guess who's back - who never left? Alec Martinez, recalled today after being assigned yesterday.
It wasn't quite "The Tonight Show with Terry Murray," but on Sunday, Murray hosted plenty of guests on the coach in the coaches' room in El Segundo.
In small groups -- as few as two, as many as eight -- Murray met with all of the Kings players on Sunday. Part of it was the coach's periodic status-check type chat, but there was a sense of urgency brought to the meetings after Saturday's loss to St. Louis.
In his usual measured tone, Murray explained to players why he made wholesale line changes in practice Sunday, explained what he wanted to see from the players and, as Murray described it, did a lot of listening to the players.
The meetings came at an important time of the season. Three months remain, but one month ago, the Kings were in first place in the Western Conference. Now they're in eighth, only one point ahead of ninth-place Detroit, which has one game in hand.
"The concern is that we're in a nice part of the schedule here, with these home games, and it's important that we go out and play the right way," Murray said after the meetings concluded. "I'm just trying to bring a real focus to a type of game, a style of game, that we need to implement and be consistent with it."
The Kings got some bad news Sunday when they learned that defenseman Matt Greene
will be out "a few games," in Murray's estimation. Greene, who had been dealing with back pain this week, was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Sunday or Monday, and Murray said Greene had suffered an injury during a third-period fight Saturday night. Alec Martinez
, who had been assigned to Manchester of the AHL on Saturday, rejoined the Kings' roster on Sunday and Davis Drewiske
(shoulder) went on injured reserve.
The big changes, though, were up front, as Murray shifted around each of his lines.
The line wearing purple, usually signifying the first line, had Anze Kopitar
centering Alexander Frolov and Scott Parse
. Jarret Stoll
centered Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds. Michal Handzus centered Brad Richardson
and Dustin Brown
. Raitis Ivanans, Oscar Moller, Brandon Segal and Teddy Purcell were the fourth-line players.
Murray said he intended to start Monday night's game against San Jose with that lineup. Murray met with the forwards, line by line, as well as the entire group of defensemen, and both goalies, in order to explain his thinking.
"It's to grab attention," Murray said. "It's a change. A change for the sake of change, but there is a purpose to it, to get attention back to you individually and to the line, to think about reasons and talk about reasons why the line was broken up in the game. I know the guys like to play with each other the way it has been set up over the last several games.
"I want them to talk about what they need to do now, as a group, in order to make it work for them again. I think any time you can put some thought into it, with the four of us, and talk about it and get stuff out that's going to be effective for them, and giving them my thought about why I made the change, we get on the same page. I'm hoping it has some real bite to it and we can get back to a good level of play right away."
Brown, the Kings' captain, spoke before his meeting with Murray and said he understood the need for a sense of urgency right now.
"This is a big homestand for us, knowing how tight it is in the West," Brown said. "We're right there. It's going to get even tighter, and these games here are going to be the difference-makers. At the end of every year, you look back and say, `We could have had this game or that game.' That's what some of these games, the last couple games, have been for us, and the next four games at home are going to be huge for us as well.
"If we can get back on track, we'll be able to look back and see that these points were huge for us." A STRANGE DAY
Martinez, the Kings' rookie defenseman, participated in Saturday's morning skate, then learned, later that day, that he was being assigned to Manchester but was told there was a chance he could stay with the Kings.
Martinez attended Saturday night's game at STAPLES Center, then came to the practice rink Sunday morning, he said, not knowing whether he would be skating or preparing for a flight back East. Due to Greene's injury, Martinez stayed in Los Angeles and practiced.